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Over the weekend, virtual reality startup – and Facebook subsidiary – Oculus held its first developers conference, Oculus Connect. There, the company showed off a whole bunch of cool stuff, not least of which was a brand new headset prototype that succeeds DevKit 2, as well as more information about the Samsung Gear VR, which is slated to come out later this year.

crescent-bay-oculusThe new “Crescent Bay” prototype is the latest and greatest implementation of Oculus’s virtual reality technology, apparently. It features “new display technology, 360° head tracking, expanded positional tracking volume, dramatically improved weight and ergonomics, and high-quality integrated audio.”

Oculus assures that Crescent Bay is “still incredibly early hardware,” and as such, there’s still a long way to go until it’s ready for retail. To go along with the integrated audio features of the Crescent Bay headset, Oculus also announced Oculus Audio, an initiative to help developers create better and more immersive audio experiences for virtual reality users.

The company also announced a partnership with Unity, which will help developers better use the software creation toolkit to make games for Oculus hardware. The partnership “means that Unity will now fully support Oculus and the Rift with a dedicated add-on that includes stereo imaging optimizations, 3D audio support, and other features specifically for virtual reality.”

carmack-gear-vrFinally, Oculus also announced the Gear VR “Innovator Edition,” which seems to be the first way people will have a chance to interact with the Samsung-made mobile virtual reality device. To hear them tell it, the Innovator Edition is “an early-access, beta-version of the device for developers and enthusiasts rather than a final consumer product.” That makes sense, since in order to buy one it’ll likely cost at least $400 after buying the required Samsung Galaxy Note 4 on a contract (to say nothing of the contract itself).

So how does the Gear VR deliver a high-end virtual reality experience powered by an Android phablet? Here, read all this gobbledygook:

“The Gear VR is powered by the new Oculus Mobile SDK, and also uses variations of the Oculus Tracker and firmware built into the headset for extremely accurate, ultra low-latency 3DOF tracking. It’s impossible to deliver a high quality mobile experience without this kind of deep end-to-end hardware, software, and firmware optimization. As a result, we’ve been able to achieve sub-20 millisecond motion-to-photons latency, roughly equivalent to the most highly optimized experiences on DK2.”

In short, Oculus has figured out to get super-low latency out of a Note 4. Whether the Gear VR takes off or not, it’s an impressive achievement, and it might pave the way for some interesting stuff down the road. Meanwhile, the Innovator Edition of the Gear VR seems tailored specifically for people who have no compunction about shelling out a lot of money for fancy virtual reality equipment. I’m curious to see, however, what Samsung decides to do to try and entice the average, everyday customer…

[Source: Oculus (1), (2)]


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